A Letter To My (Someday) Daughters-In-Law

Several months ago, I posted an only-half-kidding list of commandments for Mothers-In-Law. You are entitled to call me out on that list, if ever I break one of my own commandments. It's here, in writing, for all the world to see. Dangerous ground, yes?

But since I don't even know who you are, yet, (Maybe we haven't even met, yet!) I'm going to take this opportunity to give you some advice about marriage. It can't be considered meddling, can it?

Men are simple. Really. My sons are as simple as the rest of them. You will drive yourself insane if you try to deduce what they really mean by what they said all the time. The only way to interpret what a man says: take the most positive spin on it that is possible, and the least complicated possible message, and assume he means that. When he says that Bubba's new girlfriend has the prettiest brown eyes, that's all he means. He isn't saying that he wishes your eyes were brown, that hers are prettier than yours, that he wants to get her in the sack or that Bubba said something unkind about your baby blues. Bubba's girlfriend has pretty eyes. That's it. OK? If he says his Mom made meatloaf different, that doesn't mean anything except that mine is different. Not better, just different. In fact, mine is almost guaranteed to be different, because I cook with elk meat and I make it different every time. Don't read a big, fat criticism into it. Trust me on this.

Men are simple. They think about sex all the time. It is always at some level of their consciousness. This does not demean them, it isn't a negative comment. It simply is. This...pay attention! This is important! This is your key your feminine power. Don't use sex as a weapon against him. Don't think of it as being vulnerable. If he is excited by what might happen next, if he feels like you are passionately present in your love life, and if you make sure to ... um..... admire him in the ways that are most important to him, he will be yours. He will be more agreeable about everything else if his equipment is happy. Oh, and by the way: Victoria's Secret is not a making a bazillion dollars every year for no reason. Lingerie works.

Don't assume that just because they are big, strong men that they are callous. They are tenderhearted and have fragile egos. Let them be strong for you. Let them show you their masculine pride. Let them open the stupid pickle jar, OK? I'm not asking you to manipulate them. At least, not very much. But let them do things for you, ask for help sometimes, and express your appreciation for the help when you get it. Be careful with his pride. Never hold him up to ridicule, don't criticize him to or in front of others (especially me, for heaven's sake!), don't try to get his friends on your side. Your issues, your love life, mistakes, his moments of thoughtlessness should all remain private territory in your marriage. The two of you should build a wall around your private matters and both of you guard that like a castle full of treasure.

OK. Sensitive area here. If you ask for his help or if you are sharing the household duties, you will have to learn to accept a few things. He is not likely to ever do some household chores to your standard. If it's his job to do the laundry, you will need to accept the job he does on the laundry. You don't get to correct him, redo, or be resentful that he did it wrong. Either live with it or do it yourself, but either way, do it happy. You can't be mad at him for having a different standard on the whiteness of socks.

I am sorry to tell you that I did not manage to raise perfect children. You're going to find out that this lovable, intelligent and capable man is also stubborn and opinionated, with a talent for frustrating you to within an inch of your desire to stay married. He will do the most exasperating things for no apparant reason. He won't do what you want him to do, probably more often than not. You aren't going to change him. Oh, he will most definitely change over time, but that will be his own doing and will have little to do with your plans for him.

As smart as they are, neither on of my sons is a mind-reader. They will not get your hints. For many years, I tried to get my own Sweet Hubs to not put his hat on the table. It bugs me. I moved his hat every day. I sighed when I did it. I mumbled. I threatened to throw away the hats. You know what I didn't do? I didn't say, "Honey, hats on the table really bugs me." When I finally did, he made a real effort to stop putting his hat on the table. No fights. No struggle. Wow. I should have mentioned it years ago. Now I will have to also explain that a hat on the kitchen counter is just as annoying. One thing at a time.

Try to see the love in the things he does for you, hard as that might be to find. He is unlikely to bring you flowers every day. He'll forget important occasions. (News flash! You will, too!) You will have search for his loving intentions in everyday acts. If you ask him to put the toilet lid down and he actually does it? That is a supreme act of love. Roll with it.

Be strong for him, and vulnerable for him. He needs to know that you are strong enough to be a true companion to him, but he still wants to be protective of you. He will be your champion if he knows that he is THE ONE who always has your back. Save some of your secrets and tell him instead of your best friend. Let him see the soft, vulnerable belly that you hide from the rest of the world. Be strong enough that he knows that you will always protect his soft, vulnerable belly.

This one might be the biggest one of all. Learn how to pick your battles. When you are tempted to correct him or criticize him, hold your words for just a few moments and ask yourself, "Does this matter? Is he doing it on purpose? Have I told him how I felt? Does this negate all the good things?" and frame your thoughts from there. Some things need to be brought out. Other things will go away without any intervention from you. You will save a lot of tears and yelling and hurt feelings (yours, mostly) if you can decide early on how to pick your battles.

He has a good heart, my son whom you love. He had a good teacher, because his daddy is a wonderful husband. We had our struggles, to be sure, but we also always had eachother's best interest at heart. Treat his heart as the tenderest of treasures and protect it whenever you can. With him, you can build a strong, lasting marriage that will be the hub of your lives together. Nurture that relationship. It is the foundation of all the good years, yet to come.

Your Someday MIL.

PS. You don't have to call me "Mom" unless you're comfortable with that. I know you already have one. But, please, call me something!

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